“I hadn’t really thought about being in the restaurant business until then,” he said. He opened Jensen’s Cafe at Burnsville Parkway and Nicollet Avenue in 2005. The name is the same as his grandfather Al Jensen’s place in Fremont, Nebraska, where Doron worked his first restaurant job in 1975. The boy from Dubuque was managing a Sirloin Stockade steakhouse in Muscatine, Iowa, when his grandfather died in 1979. Through machinations among family members, his plan to take over Jensen’s Cafe, which opened in 1947, didn’t come to pass.
As COVID-19 restrictions recede, Jensen, 62, is optimistic about the two restaurants that will carry him into retirement but still awestruck by events of the past 14 months — beginning with March 17, 2020, which began the first of two statewide shutdowns. “I live in Burnsville, of course, so it’s extra meaningful,” said the 20-year resident, who owns Jensen’s Cafe in the Heart of the City as well as Jensen’s Food & Cocktails in Eagan’s Cedarvale area.
“It was just an amazing thing that you couldn’t be in business anymore because of the fact that you’re so popular and you have a room full of people all day long,” Jensen said. “That now is why you can’t be open, because we have to protect the public from that. That was a mind-blowing kind of thing to happen. There’s plenty of reasons to go out of business in the restaurant business, plenty of things that could happen, but I just didn’t see that one happening.” The surprise was Jensen being named Burnsville’s 2021 News Person of the Year, an announcement the chamber always keeps under wraps.
“The sixth store was in Burnsville, and I think it was the last one to close,” Jensen said. “That’s where I probably first came into contact with Burnsville, was through that opening.” Jensen began staking his own claim in 1986 as an investor in the Homestyle Buffet chain in Florida. He raised the seed money to move back north and open his own creation, Minnesota Steakhouse, in 1991 on Aldrich Avenue in Burnsville. He came to the Twin Cities in 1984 and worked for the fledgling Old Country Buffet chain, which started in Minnesota.
Instead, Jensen bounced from state to state, opening restaurants and building brands including the Sirloin Stockade and Ponderosa budget steakhouse chains. “And I didn’t know for about 25 years they had kiboshed the deal,” Jensen said. “I was told that the banking didn’t go through. But one of my aunts said, ‘Aren’t you glad that we didn’t stick you in Fremont, Nebraska, for the rest of your life?’ ”
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